Pressure mounts as local representatives question start date of Berriedale Braes road improvement

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Pressure is mounting on ministers to stop “shilly-shallying” over a notorious stretch of Highland road and give a start date for work.

After years of tireless campaigning, local  groups and politicians are asking questions of the Scottish Government over when the much-awaited Berriedale Braes road improvement scheme is due to begin.

Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant has now lodged a Parliamentary Question seeking answers over a start date, claiming there has been a “deathly silence” over the details of the project.

Work was expected to begin last year; however, delays have resulted in a start date being pushed back, with the earliest work could be under way estimated to be by Easter.

Regional MSP Mrs Grant said: “There seems to have been lots of ‘steps forward’ according to the Government but no evidence of steps on the ground.

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“I’m reminded of this every time I travel the A9 to Wick and Thurso.

“If this has stalled then the Government should be telling us and if not the public should be given a definite date instead of this shilly-shallying which has taken place over many years.

“Yet another winter goes by with drivers tackling this treacherous road. I’m keeping my fingers crossed there are no major accidents.”

Made Orders for the project were published in 2017 by former transport secretary Humza Yousaf.

Four companies took up the opportunity to bid over the planned improvements to the notable hairpin bend, with contractors RJ McLeod (Contractors) Ltd, Morrison Construction, Roadbridge UK and Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd battling it out over the luxurious £9 million contract.

Trudy Morris, chairwoman of Caithness Transport Forum and CEO of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: “We understand that Transport Scotland remains in competitive dialogue with the companies which have bid for the work. At the last meeting of the Caithness Transport Forum, we were advised that a decision on this was expected in December 2018.

“Given that the Scottish Government has committed to starting works in this financial year, we expect a tender award and formal announcement of start date imminently.

“The A9 is a lifeline transport link for the North Highlands, and the Berriedale Braes has long been a pinch point on this route. We urge the Scottish Government to make every effort to ensure that works progress as soon as possible.”

Berriedale Braes was ranked top of the list of perilous Scottish roads to be wary of this winter in a study carried out by motoring specialists